Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Amygdaloids: neuroscience and rock 'n' roll.

Back in my idyllic childhood days, I liked to imagine odd combinations of people and things. One of my daydreams about my own future had me climbing out of the cockpit of a hypersonic jet fighter after a joyride in the sky, walking into a building next to the tarmac, and there, after doffing my helmet but still wearing my g-suit, sitting at a grand piano and playing a Chopin étude (I did later learn to fly a plane--a decidedly non-hypersonic Cessna--but never learned to play piano). Another of my fantasies was a record album titled Scientists Sing Rock 'n' Roll, which would have cuts like J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, doing "Don't Be Cruel". The latter has come true, in a sense, with the advent of the Amygdaloids. The clip below, made at New York City's 92nd Street Y on April 3 of this year, begins with a talk about human brain anatomy and its implications for how thought and emotion relate (or fail to relate) by Joseph LeDoux, Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at New York University's Center for Neural Science, and a guitarist/vocalist for the Amygdaloids, then follows with the group doing "Memory Pill":

The other members of the group are Nina Galbraith Curley (bass and vocals; PhD candidate in neural science at NYU), Daniela Schiller (drums and vocals; postdoctoral fellow in neural science at NYU), and Tyler Volk (guitar and vocals, with lead vocal on "Memory Pill"; associate professor of biology and science director of the NYU environmental studies program).

Friday, October 10, 2008


Yom Kippur ended at sundown yesterday. I'm not Jewish, but I like the idea of a "day of atonement" in which, among other things, you're supposed to make amends to anyone you've wronged in the previous twelve or thirteen (such are the vagaries of the Jewish calendar) months. So I'm trying some atonement here for things I've posted on this blog.

First, Ben Stein. I really came down hard on you. It's largely because I was so disposed to like you. I enjoyed your show, Win Ben Stein's Money. More to the point, we had a friend in common; someone whose judgment I respected and who once did one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. To see you trashing evolution came, to say the least, as an unexpected blow below the belt. Your falling for the canard that Darwin's theory gives support to Nazi racism and the Holocaust had me shaking my head in despair. Nevertheless, I'm willing to allow that, in this matter, you were acting the fool not the knave.

Next, Leon Kass. I made sport of your fuddy-duddy-uncle-ish objections to outdoor eating in general, and ice cream cones in particular. I disagree with you about embryonic stem cell research (I've never cottoned to slippery-slope arguments, so long as reasonable people like me get to decide where the lines get drawn) and some other issues for similar reasons. Nevertheless, I'll confess, I find you fascinating, because you seem to have something I don't (which, my having lived over sixty two years, may be evidence of naivete or even imbecility): what Miguel de Unamuno called the "tragic sense of life". It's something you seem to share with the British philosopher John Gray and my former Fray colleague and fellow blogger IOZ, not that either of them would necessarily want to be put in the same category with you, or with each other, or with Unamuno, for that matter.

Last (and certainly least), Sarah Palin. I was a bit snarky, but I'll give you credit for a couple of things you said during your Katie Couric interview: "Well, I am all for contraception", and "Oh, I think it [evolution] should be taught as an accepted principle." Good for you, though you still don't get my vote.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Last night's debate.

I was going to post something about it, my friends, but I just can't top what's on my favorite sports blog. Yes, that one.

Addendum: Looking at the reader comments on MSNBC's "First Read" (for example, those on this post by Domenico Montanaro), I'm finding them running at least 20-1 pro-Obama. Also, the few pro-McCain comments tend to be poorly written, lacking in coherent argument, or just plain loony (e.g. OBAMA IS THE ANTI-CHRIST! STOP HIM!!!!). I find it hard to believe that MSNBC's readership is, on the whole, that heavily weighted with Democrats or "liberals" (OK, it ain't Fox, but nevertheless...). What this does make me think is that the McCain-Palin campaign has simply flummoxed intelligent conservatives (not a null set), so, like Cubs and Mets fans, they've had to resign themselves to pondering future prospects.

Killer "Bs".

It's good to know that Christina Long of The Brooklyn Paper shares my "B" alliteration fetish.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Rays, Red Sox to ALCS.

There will be tension in your correspondent's household starting next Friday evening, when the Rays host the Red Sox at Tropicana Field for the opening game of the American League (yes, for now, I'll call them by their real name, not the Short-Attention-Span League) Championship Series. My wife, Bay State born and bred, and schooled but a few blocks from Fenway, will have to bear this old Tampa hand's cheering for the Rays in their maiden trip to the post-season; indeed, capping their first-ever winning season. Shades, dare I say, of the '69 Mets?

And, whoever wins the ALCS, I will root for in the World Series.

10/9 update: Tim Marchman, who was one of my reasons for mourning the loss of the New York Sun, has a piece in Slate that makes me feel even better about backing the Rays.

California wildlife.

Seals, sea lions, and cormorants; Monterey Bay.

Pelicans, Monterey Bay.

Sea otter, Montery Bay.

Whale spout, Fort Funston.

Whale (humpback?) breaking surface, Fort Funston.

Black-tailed deer, Point Reyes.